Lightweight Axis/Tele thinline hybrid


TDPRI Member
Sep 14, 2020
Mississippi Gulf Coast

I've been making Tele style guitars since 1989 (with a fairly long hiatus around 2000). When I retired in 2012 I decided to give it another shot (I blame StewMac for sending me an add for a cheap Strat kit). After building that I decided that I could do better making from scratch again so I built 9 or 10 Tele's. Unfortunately, age is catching up with me so I needed a really light guitar. I started out with the Tele thinline style but I couldn't get them under 6 pounds when fully built without having problems with neck dive. I went looking around for a way to extend the upper bout without going full-on Strat and found the Axis. I made a mock-up in styrofoam, made the upper bout about a half inch shorter, and used a Tele neck pocket. The guitar pictured above is the result of a lot of head scratching. It weighs 4 pounds, 12.5 ounces (or about 2.17 kilos) fully loaded.

The interior is mostly hollow (my own design) with only 1/4" side, back, and top. The top is 1/4" flame maple, the rest of the body is 2 piece basswood. There is a slight rib cut and a fairly substantial arm cut (made the cut in the body blank and then bent the maple top to the body). Finish is TransFast Blue Turquoise water-based stain with 3 coats of TruOil followed by 15 coats of MinWax water-based wipe-on poly (all coats VERY thin).

Now we come to the sacrilege - the neck doesn't have a truss rod per se. The first guitar I built (1989) was a neck-thru, symmetrical double cutaway (don't need the upper bout with neck-thru), Tele with a maple neck and an ash body. I made that before I discovered StewMac (good old Melvyn Hiscock) and I couldn't find a truss rod so I put a 1/2" by 1/4" steel bar in the neck. I still have the guitar and the neck is still straight as an arrow. The only problem with the steel bar is that it weighs a ton. I went looking around the interwebs and found a guy named Christopher Cozad. He makes acoustic guitars (absolutely beautiful guitars) and he doesn't use a traditional truss rod. He uses a carbon fiber tube (a D-Tube made specifically for guitar necks). Unfortunately, the D-Tube is patented and would cost me about $100. Back to the old drawing board. I theorized that the strength was in the curved shape of the tube so I went on Amazon and found a 10mm square, pultruded, carbon fiber tube with the tube being round. You can get 4 of these at 400mm long (16 and 9/16ths inches) for about $20. Each tube weighs just less than 1 ounce (28 grams) and weighs almost exatly the same as the maple that I removed from the neck. The first neck I made with one of these I decided to use the worst thing I could think of - flat-sawn Spanish Cedar. I've been using that neck for about 4 months without any problems. I've since made 2 more, one for a friend and the one shown in the above pictures. One good thing about carbon fiber over steel (other than the weight) is that it won't deform. It is as strong as steel but if you put a lot of pressure on it it will either stay as is or break.

One other thing, I don't have a CNC machine. I made all my own templates out of MDF and used, basically, a router, a bench top drill press, a bench top band saw, a Dremel, a random orbit sander, and a whole bunch of elbow grease.

If anyone is interested I have pictures of the build as it went along. Oh, gear - Seymour Duncan StagMag in the bridge, Seymour Duncan SHR-1 Hot Rails in the neck (with push/push series/parallel switch in the tone control), combination top load/thru-body bridge (I use thru-body for the wound strings, thus the strange, 3 ferrules on the back), 25 inch scale conversion neck, aluminum back plate, aluminum knobs, clear acoustic style pickguard (look closely and you can see it).